Inspired by a stellar review in the New Yorker of David O. Russell's new movie, "Joy," I headed out for the theater. The script, the New Yorker's (unnamed) film critic reported, "captures the magical moment when Joy's private inspiration finds public expression," and, "the core of the film is Joy's mastery of the killer instinct and her deft plotting of bold confrontations." My kind of flick.
Ok, I admit: I've become a Jennifer Lawrence fan, and not the way you think. I've never seen one "Hunger Games." But after being mesmerized by her willful, complex characters in "Silver Linings Playbook," "American Hustle," and "Serena" (a powerful performance in what was a poorly reviewed film, but I loved it) Lawrence's intensity coupled with her loveliness has won me over. Others agree:
Rolling Stone ' s Peter Travers wrote that Lawrence "is some kind of miracle. She's rude, dirty, funny, foulmouthed, sloppy, sexy, vibrant, and vulnerable, sometimes all in the same scene, even in the same breath."
And Time reported her the highest paid actress, grossing 52 million dollars in 2015.
But back to "Joy." I fear this film will also be overlooked as the small story of an overly ambitious woman. But here's the thing: The role of "Joy" is new and fresh. I can't even recall, since Faye Dunaway's blow away performance in "Network" experiencing the "Killer Instinct" that oh so many women possess, but is rarely portrayed on film The setting is the 1970s, but the lessons are timeless. Watching the Intense, creative, rageful and focused woman entrepreneur could be any woman business owner -- right here, right now.
I came up in business in the Neanderthal nineties -- when -- unthinkable now -- upon my return from vacation, my boss informed me that my new, and biggest, project was "probably not going to be of interest to me" and that he was going to handle it. "It's too technical," he said.
The project, which I subsequently fought for and won, was a re-design of a tech warehouse. It put me on the map with my nationally based company for handling large, technical projects. It won me awards. But it took moxie and 'a deft plotting of bold confrontations."
What I love most about Joy is her Phoenix like rising from several potentially ambition killing moments. In scene after scene she overcomes negativity; first from her investors, then a botched demo on QVC, the TV show that made her, to bankruptcy, conniving suppliers and bad legal advice.
Despite the New Yorker's claim that the best scene is the one in which Bradley Cooper shows her the ropes at QVC, my vote for the best scene is the one in which Lawrence dons her leather jacket and jumps headlong into a confrontation with her two-timing and malevolent supplier.
We used to say in sales -- potato chips, silicon chips, sales are sales. In this case, mops, mopeds, Mercedes. It was succeeding that mattered.
So what makes "Joy" relevant in the 21st century?
The vicissitudes of entrepreneurship are not always pretty. There are the endless re-do's, or iterations, which any entrepreneur worth her salt knows by heart.
There's overseeing of production, the mistakes made in dealing with vendors, partners, and money. There are the disappointments.
Joy's road to success is about as rocky as it gets. Rejected, after being courted by Bradley Cooper to feature on QVC (and a missed opportunity when the celebrity demonstrator flubs showing off her product) freezing up on TV, a step sister who pays off a vendor and unwittingly queers her contract with her cheating suppliers, a mother who is a perennial drain and two small demanding children, Joy is the personification of ambitious women around the globe - juggling children, parents, bills, jobs and dreams.
And there's a beautiful subplot: The fact that Joy never holds a grudge (against her step sister who almost sabotaged her) her father, held in the clutches of his wealthy girlfriend who invests in Joy's idea, to Bradley Cooper, who almost screws her out of a QVC opportunity, and to her ex-husband who ends up being one of her most reliable advisors, contributes to Joy's ability to grow, succeed, and blossom.
Oh, and never ever taking 'no' for an answer. These days, despite leaps in the workplace we are still short on role models for women and girls. Now Joy is on the map as an inspiration.
Kudos to David o Russell and Ms. Mumolo for co-writing and making a movie about a brilliant young woman with a boatload of potential who fought her way to success.
End note: Ms. Lawrence was honored with an Oscar nomination this week.
Joan Gelfand, author of "Fear to Shred" - a soon to be published novel about women in Silicon Valley.